2 JUNE 1961, Page 15

Sia,—Since Mr. Cooke has somewhat gratuitously, and none too accurately,

dragged me into this dis- cussion, may I bring it back to earth again? For, unlike Mr. Childers or Mr. Cooke, I was present at most of the decisive phases of the 'Exodus' of the Palestinian Arabs and I have spent some years since then checking and rejecting not only the evi- dence but also the so-called sources of the evidence. One thing I have learnt in this process is that nothing can be taken for granted in this story, not even events which I have myself witnessed. For, as the years go by, new myths and legends seem to have taken the place of old ones. The Israelis and the Zionists have contributed their share, but more lately it has been the Arab propaganditts (especially Wald Khalidi and Childers) who have managed to confuse the account of the Palestinian exodus.

Mr. Cooke's letter last week is an excellent ex- ample. of how a shrewd observer becomes eorneshed„

in this kind of confusion. He commends Mr. Childers for having checked 'all radio • broadcasts from the Middle East in 1948' and for having dis- covered that 'not a single appeal was ever made to Palestinian Arabs by their leaders to leave their home.' Now, it would be interesting to know how Mr. Childers checked all the Middle East broad- casts, who monitored them and where, and whether there were really no gaps at all in these monitorings of all Middle East broadcasts in 1948? As I recall them, most of the broadcasts came either from Ramallah. Damascus or Beirut. Cairo at that time was still a little aloof. and Baghdad was not really in the picture. But Ramallah, Damascus and Beirut could be monitored only locally, or possibly in Cyprus. It would be instructive, therefore, to know a little more about the nature of the broadcasts which were checked by Mr. Childers: were they complete in every sense of the word, and were they checked by him in English or in the original Arabic?

But this is less important than my second point. The suggestion that the Israeli case rested on the existence of a broadcast order from the Arab leaders to the Palestinians is a myth invented and exploited by Professor Walid Khalidi, on whose researches Mr. Childers seems to have based himself. But Pro- fessor Khalidi had told us earlier (in the December, 1959, issue of the Middle East Forum) that contact between the Arab leaders and the National Com- mittee in Haifa was maintained, not by broadcasts, but 'through messengers and telephone conversations,' which I presume Mr. Childers has not been able to check. In fact, I came to the conclusion some time ago that this is not something which can be established by a written piece of paper. It rather reminds me of the occasions during the war when an American marine colonel, who had commanded a landing party of Americans which had been driven off the beaches at Guadalcanal, was lecturing to the Military Commentators group in London. When question time came he was asked by the late Field-Marshal Lord Milne who had given the order to retreat, the admiral on board ship or the officer in command on the beaches? The marine colonel fixed the Field-Marshal with a firm stare and replied: Sir, my men needed no orders to retreat.'

But there is now a mountain of independent evi- dence to show that the initiative for the Arab exodus came from the Arab side and not from the Jews. For example, the files of the British CID head- quarters in Haifa have a whole series of reports on the situation between April 26 and the end of the month. Let me conclude with a sentence from the report of April 28, 1948 (AAIGCID). 'The Jews,' it says, 'are still making every effort to per- suade the Arab population to remain and settle down to their normal lives in the town. . . .' It is signed 'A. J. Bidmead for the Superintendent of Police.' But the Arab leaders insisted that the Arab population be evacuated and that the British mili- tary authorities should provide them with the necessary transport. No wonder that Professor Khalidi had to conclude after his research that 'the Exodus need not have taken place, if only the Arab leaders had been able to rise to the occasion.' —Your faithfully,